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Volume 2 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 74

Opinions of Counsel index

Agricultural Districts (benefit assessments by village) - Agriculture and Markets Law, § 305(5); Real Property Tax Law, § 102(16):

Generally, villages are not authorized to form special improvement districts. The limitation on powers of districts does not apply to the benefit assessments a village would impose for sewer construction.

Our opinion has been requested as to whether benefit assessments imposed by a village for nonfarm sewers would come within the limitations of Article 25AA of the Agriculture and Markets Law, section 305, subdivision 5, which provides that “special districts” may not impose special benefit assessments for certain services (including sewers) on districted agricultural lands, unless the charges were imposed prior to the formation of the agricultural district.

          The term “special districts” is not defined in the Agriculture and Markets Law. However, since the statutory provision in question refers to the powers of “special districts” to impose “benefit assessments or special ad valorem levies”, we conclude that the drafters of this legislation contemplated a limitation on the powers of special districts as such districts are defined in the Real Property Tax Law.

Section 102, subdivision 16 of the Real Property Tax Law provides as follows:

Ҥ 102. Definitions
* * *

“16. ‘Special district’ means a town or county improvement district, district corporation or other district established for the purpose of carrying on, performing or financing one or more improvements or services intended to benefit the health, welfare, safety or convenience of the inhabitants of such district or to benefit the real property within such district, and in which real property is subject to special ad valorem levies or special assessments for the purposes for which such district was established.” (emphasis added)

Accordingly, towns and counties are authorized to form special improvement districts, and if a county or town should form certain improvement districts after the formation of an agricultural district, the county or town would be limited by section 305 with respect to imposing district charges.

However, villages generally are not authorized to form districts. When a village undertakes an improvement such as sewers, the village imposes charges against the benefited property.

Accordingly, it does not appear that the limitation on powers of districts would apply to the benefit assessments a village would impose for construction of sewers or a sewer system in the future.

July 12, 1972
Revised December 7, 1973